CAN RELIGION SAVE US?

      Down through the years I have know several men, and a few women, to get converted who had previously been cussing, drinking, fighting, wild-living sinners. When their life really changed it was not uncommon for their old crowd to say, "He got religion."
     There have been numerous times I have asked people about their relationship with God. They answer, "Iím satisfied with my religion." 
      I have noted that when someone dies who has been faithful in church attendance; lived good lives, and have done good things for other people, that a common expression has been, "If anybody makes it to heaven he (or she) will!" 
     What these statements imply is that if someone has a religion and lives a good life that this will surely satisfy God and He will accept them into heaven.
      The fact is; not one statement in scripture teaches we can be saved by religion. The word religion does not even appear in the Old Testament. The sum total that religion /religious appears in the New Testament is six times. Three times the apostle Paul speaks of how faithfully he observed the Jews religion before he trusted Christ as Savior (Acts 26:5; Galatians 1:13, 14). The word religious is applied to Gentile proselytes to Judaism (Acts 13:43). James makes a distinction between those whose religion is vain and those whose religion is real. James 1:26-27.

I.  The Apostle Paul Discovered That Religion Is Powerless To Give Salvation

     In Philippians 3:4-6 Paul refers to the religion he zealously practiced for most of his life. "... Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."  In the first nine verses of Philippians 3 Paul reveals the uselessness of religion to give salvation:

There Is No Salvation In Religious Rites (verses 1-2)

     Paul speaks here of those who trusted in the rite of circumcision as necessary for salvation. He describes them as vicious agitators and evil workers. We can be sure that if he desired, he could have given many illustrations from personal experience. Many are given in the book of Acts. According to Romans 4:9-11, circumcision was given to Abraham as a seal of the righteousness of faith which Abraham had before he was circumcised. (See Genesis 15:6 and 17:9-11)

     In the same way many have made rites out of the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lordís Supper. The observance of these ordinances do not save us. They point to the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins which made our salvation possible.

There Is No Salvation In Religious Orthodoxy (Verses 4,5)

     Paul had circumcision. He was born into the tribe of Benjamin. This was the tribe that continued to worship Jehovah when ten tribes split away. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This was a term to describe those who were "the cream of the crop". Paul was a Pharisee. He described them as being "the straightest sect of our religion" in Acts 26:5. During Paulís days as a Pharisee he was undoubtedly counting on his religious orthodoxy to gain his much favor with God. On the Damascus Road he was jolted with the realization that it didnít gain him any favor at all.

There Is No Salvation In Religious Works (Verse 6)

     In other scriptures Paul made such statements as "I. . .was zealous toward God, as you all are today." Acts 22:3.  "And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." Galatians 1:14.  An honest and objective appraisal of Paulís works in his Jewish religion was that he was "off the charts" when compared to anyone else.

     Yet Paul came to realize that all of his zeal in performing religious works gained him absolutely no merit with God. He came to realize that the law was a "...our tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" Galatians 3:24.

II.  Paul Discovered Salvation Is Only To Be Found Through Faith In Christ

     "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet, indeed, and I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through  faith in Christ, the righteousness from God by faith:"

     Paul is referring to that time on the Damascus Road when he had an experience that caused him to throw his religious rites, his religious orthodoxy and his religious works on the garbage dump as far as giving any hope of salvation is concerned.

What does Paul say brings salvation to the seekers heart?

          "Öthe knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord";
          "ÖAnd be found in Him";
          "Önot having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ"
    

     Paul is testifying, "When I reached out in faith to Jesus Christ that day on the Damascus Road it resulted in me coming to know Him as my personal Savior. I have come to realize that God placed me in Christ and no longer sees me in my self-righteousness of Christ. That is what saves me and makes me acceptable to God. As for as my Christian life, I have discovered that my works are no longer what I am doing for God to help save me, but they are the result of what God is doing in me that makes me want to living pleasing to Him and serve Him."

A sample of what Paul preached is found in his sermon in the Jewish synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."   Acts 13:38-39

Hopefully, you are trusting Christ alone for your salvation. If you are still trusting religion, the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22,23 give a powerful warning "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name cast out demons in Your name, and  done many wonders in Your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.